Saying hello in Diyari

In many languages in the world there are special expressions called “greetings” that are used when we meet someone. For example, English has “hello” or “hi” or “good day”, or we can use expressions that relate to the time of day, like “good morning”, “good afternoon” or “good evening”.

In Diyari, there is nothing equivalent to this, and if you meet someone you don’t know then you would begin the conversation with:

Waranha yini

This means ‘who are you?’ and is made up of:

waranha which means ‘who’

yini which means ‘you’

In the Diyari language there are three ways of saying ‘you’: yini (which can also be pronounced yidni) means ‘you’ when talking to one person, yula (or yudla) means ‘you’ when talking to two people, and yura means ‘you’ when talking to three or more people. So we have:

  • Waranha yini? means ‘Who are you?’ (to one person)
  • Waranha yula? means ‘Who are you?’ (to two people)
  • Waranha yura? means ‘Who are you?’ (to more than two people)

To answer, you simply say nganhi, which means ‘I’ plus your name. In English we have to link these with the word ‘am’ but in Diyari we do not — just place the two words side by side:

Nganhi Peter ‘I am Peter’
Nganhi Mary ‘I am Mary’

The same structure can be used to express ‘you are …’, as in:

Yini Peter ‘You are Peter’
Yini Mary ‘You are Mary’

If you raise the tone of your voice at the end, then this becomes a question:

Yini Peter? ‘Are you Peter?’
Yini Mary? ‘Are you Mary?’

Notice that English requires the order of words to be switched around and ‘are’ to be placed first. In Diyari the question is indicated by a rising tone at the end only.

As an alternative to Waranha yini? we can also say the following:

Waranha yingkarni tharla ‘What is your name?’ (literally ‘Who your name?’)

Notice the new words: yingkarni ‘your’ (speaking to one person) and tharla ‘name’.

As you might have guessed, when speaking to more than one person we use different words:

  • Waranha yingkarni tharla? means ‘What is your name?’ (to one person)
  • Waranha yularni tharla? means ‘What are your names?’ (to two people)
  • Waranha yurarni tharla? means ‘What are your names?’ (to more than two people)

Notice that tharla translates as ‘name’ or ‘names’ — in Diyari words for things that are not alive do not change for singular or plural.

To answer this question you simply say ngakarni tharla, which means ‘my name’ plus your name. Like we saw above, in English we have to use a linking word (this time it’s ‘is’) but in Diyari we do not — just place them side by side:

Ngakarni tharla Peter ‘My name is Peter’
Ngakarni tharla Mary ‘My name is Mary’

The same structure can be used to express ‘your name is …’, as in:

Yingkarni tharla Peter ‘Your name is Peter’
Yingkarni tharla Mary ‘Your name is Mary’

If you raise the tone of your voice at the end, then this becomes a question:

Yingkarni tharla Peter? ‘Is your name Peter?’
Yingkarni tharla Mary? ‘Is your name Mary?’

In the next blog post we will learn how to say hello to someone that you already know.

New words

nganhi ‘I’
ngakarni ‘my’

yini ‘you’ (to one person)
yingkarni ‘your’ (to one person)

yula ‘you’ (to two people)
yularni ‘your’ (to two people)

yura ‘you’ (to more than two people)
yurarni ‘your’ (to more than two people)

waranha ‘who’
tharla ‘name(s)’

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